Youth program cut leaves families in a lurch for summer

Mother of four unable to find a replacement for Youth Companion Program

The NDP wants the Sask. Party to immediately reverse its decision to scrap the Youth Companion Program, because with school nearly out for summer, parents like Lorelee Finnie are scrambling for alternative arrangements and finding nothing.

This spring, the Sask. Party scrapped the program that helped match youth with cognitive disabilities to caregivers. The program, delivered by Radius, also planned activities and programming for youth including the popular summer Glee Club. The valuable program cost just $65,000.

“The Sask. Party dismissed the program as unimportant, and said parents should just figure out an alternative. But Mr. Wall and company simply don’t have their facts straight,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “There is no replacement for this fantastic program. It meant parents could find trusted, qualified caregivers. And, it meant the world to the kids.

“The Sask. Party has taken away a program that moms like Lorelee really need, and replaced it with nothing.”

Finnie, a military veteran, has two sets of twins – 15 year-old girls and 14 year-old boys. Girls Katie and Doris are both on the autism spectrum, and boys David and Jordie each have global developmental delay. All four have been in the Youth Companion Program.

“There is so little help for parents in Saskatchewan as it is,” said Finnie, who moved to Saskatoon from Winnipeg and was shocked by the lack of supports available for her kids’ development and care. “Taking away a program with such a small cost that makes such a big difference makes no sense. Especially if it means moms like me won’t be able to keep working or going to school because we aren’t able to find safe summer care for our kids.”

Since the Sask. Party scrapped the program in March, Finnie has searched for alternatives. As a Social Work student, she’s adept at navigating community-based organizations, but still has found nothing to replace the service the Youth Companion Program provided. Desperate to make arrangements for her kids before the end of June when school lets out for summer, Finnie has even turned to posting ads on Kijiji – which she says has led to nothing but calls from unqualified people, and hassle.

“Saskatchewan doesn’t have comprehensive supports for parents of kids with disabilities,” said Broten. “Instead of seeing the success of this low-cost program that helps parents to hire their own qualified caregivers, and spreading that model throughout the province, the government scrapped it without ever providing a coherent reason. Families deserve so much better.”